Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Journey to Driving

I feel like reflecting upon Daisy and my latest feat of this year, 2011.
In the waning days of 2010, I found myself stuck inside an arena once again, and after quickly exhausting my options of what to do to keep us busy and entertained, I sat twiddling my thumbs and wondering. . . English, western, jumping, barrel racing. . . besides parades, I had yet to try something with Daisy and truly fail(the parade wasn't a complete fail). People would often comment that my mare "does everything" to which I would quickly reply "Well, she doesn't drive." December of last year brought me to wondering whether it was really that difficult a skill to master. So I set my mind upon teaching her to ground drive. I emailed with Sydney for some helpful tips on how to get started, and consulted a ground driving article I found on google. 
And so we began. Our first, few days I believe, looked much like this, just doing some sacking out and helping her get used to the feel of *things* brushing all over her legs:

Once she seemed fine with that step, we progressed to actual ground driving, with crude tack; english saddle and two longe lines, laced through the stirrups. It looked silly, but it worked. Many thanks once again to my good friend Lydia for filming help that day as well as being an assistant. She was there from the beginning with the driving training, and was helpful both back then and this summer, as we practiced with the real cart:

Notice how the title of the next movie is no longer "Ground Driving Training Part III" but rather " *Driving* Training Part III". Daisy took to the ground driving rather well, and I decided to go a step further and teach her to drive. I added "driving harness" to my Christmas wish list, and began doing more desensitizing. This video featured the barrel, however I also worked dragging a pole and soda bottles on a rope.
We ground drove once a week or every other week for a few months. In August I purchased a simple easy-entry cart that I found on craigslist, and hired an instructor, Gracie :)
I used the driving bridle with the blinders for the first time. . . 
Daisy was a little confused that she couldn't see me, no matter how far she turned her head behind her, but otherwise she was fine :)
 The first time we hooked her up, we had a spook that sent Daisy and cart, with me in tow, doing a 180, followed by a pony frozen with fear and snorting at the crazy object behind her.
The next lesson, we took it literally two steps at a time, as she got used to the feel of the cart around her.
Lesson after lesson we made our way around the field at Katie's, slowly eliminating the helpers at her sides.
I brought Daisy home and we continued, until finally. . . 

The helpers became passengers ;)

Lydia and I drove Daisy once or twice a week for a couple months up and down our driveway to gain more experience. Sometimes Daisy still had trouble turning up by our house, but I think this was a barn sour issue, not necessarily a training one. I really appreciate Lydia coming out to help so often! Especially since Daisy seems to like her quite a lot ;).  Hopefully in spring we can start up again with that, introduce a car coming from behind (as the sound without seeing the car will be a new situation), and then move to the road.
Driving Daisy is really a lot of fun; she's so talented! Notice the tight turn that is required of her on our driveway. . .
Trotting is such fun too! 


Driving has been an excellent experience for Daisy. She's very accustomed to the feel of lines and harnesses all over her back. She hears the clacking of the cart behind her and doesn't worry. The voice commands are put into use in our every day rides, which makes things much more fun. And Daisy has learned to trust me more, and I her!

As I write, it is snowing heavily outside. I'm excited to get back to this in spring :)

6 comments:

samihob said...

Great blog! Why not come and post it at hay-net.co.uk an Equine Social Blogging Network for more to follow.

Sydney said...

Good job! I am so glad you seen through to train her to drive. It really makes a horse so much more versatile in things you can do with them and how they accept new things.
A couple things I noticed and want to point out. Driving with blinders is great, and a traditional way to drive but I have seen a great wreck happen on more than one occasion due to always driving a horse with blinders. The one time at a show a gelding who was very well trained (and just won a class) got his bridle taken off somehow. He was still attached to the cart and seen it and freaked out because although hes not stupid he knew something was following him but he finally seen it! Since that day I have always started horses with open bridles and always drove older horses who have been in blinders in an open bridle before I put them in the cart with a bridle if I did not train them.
Also your shaves are a bit high. This is going to place the weight of your cart and passengers on her belly. You ideally wan it in line with the point of her shoulder (and the tugs since they come off the breast collar at the point of the shoulder)so the weight is evenly distributed and the shaves cannot bounce up or down and place too much weight on the horses back or belly. Plus you can catch a line around a shave or the bridle which is worse when they are pointing too far up.
No sleigh to use in the winter? Google Skiijoring :P

Mellimaus said...

Thanks for the information Sydney! The first couple pictures of Daisy hooked up were from her first day driving, in which we hooked her up quickly with as little 'messing with' the harness as possible to keep her comfortable. . . the last driving picture is where we moved the shafts down to. Are they still too high there? (can you tell?)
And thanks for the tip with the blinders. . . I was thinking that as well that I should get her used to driving without blinds. I don't know how she'll take it the first time though.

Sydney said...

I would have someone lead her or be there on a line when you start her out without blinders. First pull the cart behind her then attach it to her. Most horses do well.
the past picture before the video in this post was the one I noticed she needed the shaves brought down. See where the breast collar is sitting in the picture? That's the level the shaves should be.

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Bella said...

I really enjoyed coming out and helping you Melissa, it was a great learning experience for me too! :)

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